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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Sarah Ward, right, talks with Mary Guarino, left, and Jeannett Lipka during a halfway check-in for St. Joseph Hospital's online weight loss program Tuesday, March 20, 2012, at Best Fitness.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Sandra Pacheco stopped by the "Lighten Up Nashua" booth during a halfway check-in for St. Joseph Hospital's online weight loss program Tuesday, March 20, 2012, at Best Fitness.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Carla Smith shares a lighter moment during a halfway check-in for St. Joseph Hospital's online weight loss program Tuesday, March 20, 2012, at Best Fitness.
Sunday, March 25, 2012


NASHUA – Sandy Pacheco goes to the gym five or six days a week for a number of reasons, including to feel better, stay more alert and lose a few pounds.

But her impetus to join Lighten Up Nashua, St. Joseph Hospital’s online community weight-loss and fitness program, was sparked by a far greater goal: to do whatever she can to control her diabetes.

“I should have done this years ago,” Pacheco said Tuesday, during Lighten Up Nashua’s Halfway Check-in Party, a celebration/motivation session marking the midway point in the 16-week session that ends in May.

“It’s been going OK,” Pacheco said. “I’m almost at my average (weight-loss goal) now, but I’ll keep going; I want to do more. I’m diabetic, and I want to control it myself.”

Pacheco, who joined Lighten Up Nashua’s first 2012 session in January with her sister, daughter and daughter-in-law, was among the scores of participants who filled the lobby at Nashua’s Best Fitness on Tuesday afternoon and evening.

Displayed were the names of the top 30 individuals and teams in the weight-loss race, a friendly, motivation-based competition at the heart of Lighten Up Nashua.

“It’s the point we celebrate where people are and help motivate those who need it,” St. Joseph marketing director Sarah Ward said.

The program is free to as many individuals and teams that want to join.

Participants register online at www.lightenupnashua.com and weigh in through the site each Monday during the session. Benefits include diet advice, food plans, exercise tips and local nutrition and health maintenance resources and events. Registration is ongoing through all the sessions, Ward said, but those who complete an entire session have the best chance at winning prizes.

The current session ends May 11 with a final celebration, success stories and awarding of prizes. Session II begins May 21 and runs through Sept. 7, while the third runs from Sept. 24 through Jan. 4.

According to last week’s display of weight-loss statistics, which are calculated by percentage rather than number of pounds, a participant named Kathy (stats use first names only) was the current leader, having lost 12.96 percent of her total weight.

Patti was a close second at 12.66 percent, while Kim was third at 10.53 percent. Translating the percentages into pounds would require the participant’s starting weight, but as an example, if someone weighing 150 pounds at the start lost 12.96 percent, he or she would have lost just under 20 pounds, a formidable achievement in an eight-week period.

For teams, meanwhile, an average of members’ weight-loss numbers are calculated in percentages, a factor that makes them typically lower than individuals’. Teams do have the colorful names, though – the leader is “3 Dolls and a Guy,” with just under 6 percent weight loss. Second is “The Little Rascals,” at 5.35 percent, while “Not so Big Mamas” is a close third with 5.28 percent.

Lucy Descoteau, one of four hospital employees photographed for a Lighten Up Nashua promotion that appeared on the cover of January’s “Healthy Choices,” the hospital’s quarterly publication, said her reason for joining a team is simple: “They needed a fourth.” But now she’s really into it.

“It’s great, it pushes you to exercise,” Descoteau said , adding with a smile, “I don’t need the motivation, but my team does.”

Roughly 550 people are participating in the current session, including some 60 teams. Together, they’ve lost almost a ton – some 1,974 pounds at last count. Hospital marketing specialist Sheila Caron said about 250 people attended the kickoff party in January.

Nashua resident Becky Shaughnessy is on a team that includes three other women and her husband. All five are also Weight Watchers clients, hence their name: “Weight Watchers Feathers,” or “WWF.”

“I happened to hear about (Lighten Up Nashua) on the radio,” Shaughnessy said. “We figured why not check it out. It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s working well for us,” she said.

Down almost 18 pounds in eight weeks, Shaughnessy is inspired.

“It’s coming off,” she said with a smile.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.